MB restricts mass feedings of homeless

The City of Myrtle Beach is putting restrictions on where and how church groups can feed the homeless.

A new ordinance will place limits on mass feedings in city parks.

People who live near parks say they have nothing against feeding the homeless, they just say mass feedings should not happen in places like public parks.

One resident told Myrtle Beach City Council on Tuesday, "We do not want it. We have worked very hard to get our neighborhood cleaned up."

It was standing room only at the Myrtle Beach City Council workshop, as residents asked for limits on mass feedings of homeless people in city parks.

In recent years, local church groups have handed out meals to the homeless in parks like Spivey and Withers Swash.

Folks who live nearby, like Don Boyce, say those mass feedings cause problems in their neighborhoods.

"It's not just the homeless doing the crimes; however it also is the homeless doing the crimes. I've seen it myself," said Boyce.

But the church groups said, if crime is the problem, residents should call the police.

They say placing limits on mass feedings won't get rid of the crime.

"The people are going to be there regardless if we feed them or we don't feed them. We're still going to have people sitting in the parks," said Mary Thompkins of St. Phillips Lutheran Church.

Thompkins says the homeless are often families with children, and their numbers are growing in Myrtle Beach because of the economy.

But those opposed to the mass feedings in the park say they're concerned about children, too - the ones living in their neighborhoods.

"If you see a hundred people there getting fed, you're not going to take your children there," said Boyce. He added the homeless need to be fed - just not in city parks.

But one woman who's long been involved in feeding the homeless brought up a passage from Deuteronomy to make her point.

"You will always have the poor and the homeless with you. Those who help those will be blessed," quoted Carol Stallings from First Baptist Church.

In the end, City Council decided to place limits on mass feedings in parks.

From now on, church groups will have to get a city permit to do it, and they'll only be allowed to do four feedings per year.

First Baptist Church in Myrtle Beach began its outreach in Withers Swash Park nine years ago.